If you’d like to visit us, this is our main office address. Please contact us in advance to arrange your visit. Room 2010, 20th floor, Jiahe Huaqiang Building B, Shennan Middle Avenue, Futian district, Shenzhen city, China.
Invoices and contracts bear mention of our head office (Room B, 5 Tai Mong Tsai Road, Sai Kung, N.T., Hong Kong).
Since we are client-centric and we have lined up a broad range of solutions over the past 14 years, we have a long list of competitors.
We are organized in separate departments, and each department aims at being among the best service providers on its market. And, at the same time, you can work with one of our project managers who will pull resources throughout the company in order to match your needs. This is a unique approach that we haven’t seen in “quality control agencies”, in “sourcing companies”. or in “new product development shops”
We are organized in three departments that offer different solutions:
- Quality assurance — factory auditing, product checklist definition, product inspections, and related consulting. We offer the same services as the large testing houses, but we don’t just “tick the box and get to the next job”.
- Supply chain management — project managers and related functions (logistics, lab testing management, new supplier screening, procurement, VAT rebate processing…). We are not self-centered, we are very client-centric.
- Product engineering — assistance throughout the development of a new product (NPI/PPAP), including prototyping, with or without assistance of your manufacturer. Our mechanical and electronic engineers can help.
- Supplier performance management — we provide engineers & auditors to train, challenge, and/or support your suppliers’ factories in China, Vietnam, and wider Asia, so they improve systems, processes, & reliability.
Importers that don’t have a buying office close to their suppliers’ operations and that don’t work with the very best contract manufacturers.
Our clients typically need help on the ground from seasoned professionals, want a clear compensation model (no complex or hidden fees), and solutions to their issues (not just a menu of standard services).
Sofeast is a professional service provider that helps importers work more productively with, and get better results from, their Asian suppliers. Our main presence is in China, Vietnam, India, and Bangladesh.
We are not a “sourcing agent”, but we provide many of the functions of traditional “agents”. Our business model is closer to that of engineering firms and auditing companies — offering competent people’s time and a proven process.
For new/customized products
You pay for that work and you own all the resulting deliverables.
The only exception is the templates we have developed over the years — you do not have the right to re-use them.
Our liability is limited to the amount of fees you paid to us for the particular job that led to that issue.
The most important thing to focus on is to find ways to avoid such issues or to detect them through reviews and reliability testing. As a general rule, all design changes have to be approved by your side and their impact has to be evaluated with a proper testing plan.
You understand that, if we provide services for 1,000 USD, we can’t accept liability for 1 million USD. We are not aware of any company that accepts this level of risk. However, naturally, we will do the design work to correct any mistake for free.
What we do most often is a hybrid approach:
- Reviewing your design and providing suggestions
- Doing some of the design, development, and prototyping work
- Letting the manufacturer do what they have strong internal capabilities for
Yes. And this should be planned from the design stage. Many projects have gone very far into prototyping and even production, only to be dropped because they had to get back to square 1… a new iteration of the design that takes certification constraints into account.
We have experience with the most common types of certification for the US and Europe.
Yes, for several reasons.
Because you might need to make changes to your design to make it easy to manufacture in China, or to have a chance at hitting your budget & timing targets.
And because you need to know what type of supplier you should work with even before starting the search:
- OEM? ODM, already making a very similar product? Contract manufacturer?
- Small, midsize, large?
- Past experience in a certain critical process or technology? In your country’s compliance standards?
First, you will need more than an idea. At the very least, get a first version of the design, as well as a general description (intended use, etc.) on paper.
Second, before sharing the design with anybody, make sure to have a solid agreement in place that targets all the usual risks (not your standard non-disclosure agreement).
Third, you might go in the wrong direction and spend many months working with the wrong type of suppliers and, in the end, get nowhere. Talk with a company like ours. We have worked with a number of people who were in your situation.
China offers creators, entrepreneurs, and hardware startups the manufacturing infrastructure to handle new product manufacturing, but it’s the preparation and management of mass production that often leaves hardware startups & SMEs over-budget and running behind on delivery.
One only needs to visit Kickstarter or Indiegogo to see the abysmal proportion of projects that are not delivered on time due to unexpected problems and extra costs.
Inexperienced founders are overly optimistic about the capabilities of Chinese manufacturers and about the ‘readiness for production’ of their new product design.
99% of Chinese manufacturers want to go to mass production as soon as possible, even if this has relatively high-quality risks. They are consistently over-enthusiastic and tend to under-deliver on their promises.
Subsequently, hardware startups don’t see all the risks, don’t challenge predictions and reassurances, and don’t enlist the assistance of people who have done it before. They also have pressure to get first to market and increase the product ROI (Return on Investment) by an early introduction.
We’ve seen people in this position in our home city of Shenzhen and the rest of China get burnt too often, so this is why Sofeast’s production engineers and project managers specialize in new product introduction (NPI) and design for manufacturing (DFM).
Working with Sofeast
Many services of our Quality Assurance department are billed based on the number of man-days. A man day includes approximately 5 hours of productive work on site, but also accounts for transportation, lunch break, and the time to study the files before and to complete the draft report afterwards.
Extra expenses will only be incurred if, for instance, a lot of travelling is required – in these cases we are up front with you about these beforehand. We usually invoice only 50% of the man-day cost for a day spent travelling.
In many cases, new Sofeast clients will benefit from choosing to work with a dedicated project manager who we can provide to handle your project on the ground in China. This takes away the stress of battling with time-difference, language barrier, and fire-fighting issues as they arise.
We provide your project manager at an affordable cost. This person acts as your single point of contact and works as a part of your team to assure that your project is kept on track, with costs, delays, and quality kept at an acceptable level.
What will my project manager do for me?
They will do the following to provide you with maximum peace of mind:
- Handle your supplier in person, on the phone, and can even visit their factory in order to keep them on track and add some pressure where required
- Track your project’s progress, reporting to you daily, and checking that the supplier is reaching your standards and following agreed-upon procedures
- Speak both Chinese and English, allowing them to communicate with your supplier and keep you updated at all times.
- Translate documents to assure that you have visibility over what is happening
- … and many more useful actions, too
Read more: You can learn even more about how Sofeast’s project managers can help you by reading this blog post and read the Sofeast client charter to get our guidance on how to work most effectively with your project manager and the rest of our team, too.
What does project management cost?
We bill 34 USD an hour for project management and supply chain-related work. (Amount negotiable for a consistent number of hours every month, on retainer.)
Expenses, if any, are charged separately.
Ready to get started with supplier management?
Please contact us. Typically, Kate, Renaud, or Fabien will respond to you within 10 hours. We welcome your inquiries and always try to respond quickly, however, please bear in mind that we are usually in the China/Hong Kong time zone and may be many hours ahead of your time which could result in a reply on your following day.
We are happy to start working with you without a contract if you want to keep the process ‘light’ on your side (our terms & conditions apply, in any case).
We can provide a service provision contract for those clients who see the potential for long-term cooperation and want their requirements to be documented. (That’s what we always advise buyers to do with their Asian suppliers.)
The most common payment methods are:
- Bank transfer (we require full payment, without any intermediary fee)
- Paypal (faster and cheaper for small amounts, but it gets expensive for larger amounts — payer is to bear full fees that come at 7.5%)
We invoice based on the time we spend, and on any expenses incurred (typically, traveling costs). Different employees’ time is billed at different rates, based on their expertise. The minimum amount of work billed is 1 man-hour for office activities, and 1 man-day for on-site operations.
Yes. Our engineers can go to a factory and study the issue (there is usually no alternative to going on site). We can investigate the root cause(s) of the issue, explain it to the manufacturer, and help set up an action plan. Depending on the exact source of the issue, we can often provide guidance along the way to ensure the problem is really fixed and won’t come back. See our production problem management service.
No. We are a professional services company. We only get paid when our assistance is needed. Once we are no longer needed, there is no need to pay us.
We do not ever hide information from clients, since they pay us for doing the work of gathering that information.
We are a professional services company and we get paid based on the amount of work we provide. This eliminates the temptation of taking shortcuts (‘let’s see if that supplier that we already know can do a good job’) and all the usual suspicions of typical sourcing agents (who often get a hidden commission from the supplier side too).
Yes, absolutely. This can be done in various ways. The easiest and fastest is to simply check their registration status with the government. We can do a more in-depth background check. We can also put you in contact with a lawyer who can drill down on the legal side, or a consultancy who can collect a lot of information about their operations. See our due diligence service.
First, we need to know what your needs are, including quantity, quality standard, special requirements, etc. Then, we start our proven process for searching and screening suitable suppliers. From experience, in most cases taking a shortcut is a mistake.
Please keep two things in mind. We don’t get paid a percentage of the order value like a typical agent does. We charge you for our time. And we can’t share with you the information we gathered for other clients (strict confidentiality policy).
This is obviously a key concern, since our clients often make important decisions based on our reports. We mitigate this risk by avoiding certain psychological profiles in the hiring process, by having a strong code of conduct, through internal management practices, by communicating what is unacceptable to suppliers early on, by rotating inspection staff, through random audits, and by logging many data during inspections. Clients are welcome to ask for more details.
Non-food consumer goods (from textiles to electronics) and mechanical products (for industrial or automotive use).
Yes, we can! As you probably know, to transfer tooling and molds between your old supplier in China to a new one isn’t as easy as just picking it up and delivering it to the new location.
A source of anxiety
If your relationship with your old supplier is coming to an end for whatever reason it can be an anxious time as tooling/molds are both costly and critical to your IP.
- You need to be careful that your old supplier doesn’t retain your tooling and start making your products with them off the books.
- You’ll also want to avoid creating brand new tooling and molds which could be very expensive.
- It’s tough to handle the transfer and assess the state of your tooling/molds from a different continent (assuming that you’re not in China).
This is where an orderly and methodical transfer will help you.
Sofeast’s 13 step tooling transfer process
Sofeast has performed these tooling and mold transfers for clients many times as we have engineers on the ground in China who work on your behalf to assure that it runs smoothly.
We split our tried-and-tested process into 2 phases:
This process is split into two phases:
- Checking and pickup of molds/tooling from the current supplier & shipping to new supplier
- Delivery & testing the molds/tooling in the new supplier’s factory and completing the transfer
You can read in detail about the entire 13 step tooling transfer process here.
We also wrote about how to package tooling to prevent damage and rust in transit, too!
Get help with your mold and tooling transfer
Are you in a similar situation and unsure about how to proceed?
Sofeast has dealt with this before for many clients.
Just click here to speak with us. We’ll subsequently arrange a consultation to listen to your situation and suggest how we can help you.
You will also enjoy our post which gives you a more top-level view of why and how molds need to be moved: How to move Plastic Injection Molds between China Factories [10 Tips]
Quality assurance solutions
Most inspections are done within 1 day (sometimes with several QC technicians working alongside each other). Sometimes it takes longer, depending on the number of products and the complexity of the work.
If you are a new client, contact us and give us the product details & photos, as well as the order quantity breakdown. We will suggest an inspection plan and, once we know what city the factory is located in, we will confirm a quotation.
If you are a new client, simply log in www.sofeast-booking.com and schedule the inspection. We will get back to you shortly.
Once you have selected the product inspection that you require, you will need to use our simple booking system to organize your inspection.
You first need to create your company’s private account.
Then, you need to log in at https://sofeast-booking.com, select the right service, and fill out the form.
It is all explained in How To Use Sofeast’s Booking System For Product Inspections.
Non-food consumer goods (from textiles to electronics) and mechanical products (for industrial or automotive use).
Sofeast quality engineers and technicians can help reduce your quality risks in a preventive manner. They put in place processes that are better-controlled, resulting in more consistent quality products. The ultimate goal is to lower your costs and reduce unexpected delays.
Supply chain management solutions
If you are concerned about being scammed or employing a middle-man posing as a factory to produce your orders (and you should be) then you should run background checks.
Sofeast carry out these checks to assure you that a potential supplier is not a ‘scammer’ and has their story straight, is offering competitive pricing, and is a good match for your business.
Compliance and Certification
No, we don’t. It is not at the core of what we do. We only do some tests on some very specific products such as batteries. (We have set up client-specific programs and developed gauges, jigs, and fixtures to carry out specific tests.) We plan and manage certifications and testing for compliance, in outside labs. We also handle many reliability testing jobs, particularly on electronic products.
Lead-time given is only for international transit time, customs clearance at the destination is excluded from this and may vary.
- Express courier: 4-5 days for Priority shipments and 7-8 days for Economy shipments
- Air shipment: 7-10 working days
- Sea shipment: 29-45 days
Transit time between booking and loading onto the ship is approximately 3-7 days.
Transit time at the destination for cargo clearance is 1-3 days.
In the international shipping industry, “peak season” refer to months leading up to holiday seasons resulting in shipping costs to increase and warehouses to blast.
- Peak season – October to February
- Off-season – March to May
- Normal season – June to September
Shipping costs can also increase if the carrier is on strike or due to bad weather.
The formula you should use to calculate import taxes is as follows:
Import Duty ($) = Customs Value ($) x Duty Rate (%)
US – Goods value (FOB)
EU – Good value + Insurance + Shipping (CIF)
These import duties are to be paid by the importer (you) at the destination, following customs clearance.
To help you:
For US – http://hts.usitc.gov/?query=9503
For EU – http://ec.europa.eu/taxation_customs/dds2/taric/taric_consultation.jsp?Lang=en
For Canada – http://www.cbsa-asfc.gc.ca/trade-commerce/tariff-tarif/menu-eng.html
Shipping insurance may be suitable for you if your business has a low tolerance for risk, loss of packages, or you are shipping high-value products.
It is not normally not included in quotations.
The average cost is 0.3% of goods value.
If you need help arranging shipping insurance, please speak to us, we can help.
The minimum weight of air cargo is 45 kg.
We recommend to use air freight when:
- Total weight > 150 kg, depending on different countries
- Total volume > 0.5 CBM
- High density, high-value cargo (i.e. Jewelry, Electronics)
Costs for air freight are based either on volume or weight using the below formula:
Length (m) x height (m) x width (m) multiply by volumetric factor*
*If volumetric weight > actual weight, volumetric weight is applied to the shipping rate OR If volumetric weight < actual weight, actual weight is applied to the shipping rate.
Sofeast pricing FAQs PES
We need to review your product idea, and how mature it is. If you don’t have a design yet, we can put you in contact with a design house. What we can do at an early stage is a review of your project in order to identify the main risks and challenges you will encounter.
If you have a very clearly documented project, you are used to developing new products for manufacturing in Asia, and you are comfortable managing all the technical work, Upwork may be a great place to find engineers. We will still be happy to provide reviews and guidance where and if you need.
Sofeast pricing FAQs QAS
We need to know where the factory is (which city, and if possible which district), what you are buying and in what quantity, and what your needs and requirements are.
China is blessed with the world’s best manufacturing resources for complex products, such as consumer electronics.
The tech hub of Southern China (where we’re based) is known as ‘China’s silicon valley.’
There are too many suppliers to count here, but before you start searching on Alibaba or Global sources, give this list of recommended contract manufacturers a try:
First, we need to know what your needs are, including quantity, quality standard, special requirements, etc. We encourage our clients to look on Alibaba.com and GlobalSources.com and to point some potential suppliers to us, as it clarifies your expectations.
Then, if we see this is something we can help you with, we start our proven process for searching and screening suitable suppliers. From experience, taking a shortcut is a mistakein most cases.
Please keep two things in mind. We don’t get paid a percentage of the order value like most agents do. We charge based on the time we spend. And we can’t share with you the information we gathered for other clients (we have a strict confidentiality policy).
Please go to this page for more details about our supplier identification service.
New Factory Identification
Here is how we usually proceed:
1. Collectproductrequirements (from client)
2. Run a quick market study to evaluate the time we will have to spend
3. Provide a quotation for the first service, and get approval from client
4. Identify a list of suppliers from various sources
5. Provide a report in Excel with information collected and full contact details.
To determine the average market price, we typically request quotations from 5-10 suppliers (depending on the product/component) and compare prices. We also encourage our clients to look on Alibaba.com and GlobalSources.com, to see what offers they get first-hand.
Based on the short list of the top 3 suppliers, we request samples to check quality and review their capabilities, as well as clarify some critical pointsfurther.
Price and payment terms are linked to your order quantity, and to the supplier’s motivation to get your business.
What we can say is, we have a proven process to find what the market price is. If you can “sell” your project to a potential supplier, it is often a good idea for you to talk to the short list we came up with, and to try and get their price down.
However, for many importers, the search of the ever-lower FOB price often leads to issues that raise the total cost of ownership of the goods. It is not always a good idea.
Compliance Testing Consulting FAQs
Ask three testing houses and you might get 3 different lists of applicable tests since each one interprets regulations in its own way.
They don’t always clarify what is mandatory vs. suggested tests (since they want to sell you more testing).
They ignore elements that could be taken into consideration (e.g. certifications of certain materials, the fact that a key component comes from an international manufacturer…) since they decrease risk.
If your order includes several SKUs that are different but share some materials and/or colors, setting up a ‘reasonable’ testing plan (rather than testing every single SKU fully) can often cut costs by more than half while keeping risks down.
If your product is out of the ordinary or is across 2 sensitive categories (e.g. food contact and for children), they might forget some critical standards. This is a common issue due to the way they manage their databases.
Sofeast pricing FAQs SCMS
Instead of always paying for hours of work, is it possible to pay Sofeast a percentage of the orders?
No, we have never done this. Think of us as a professional service provider. We always have to be paid for our work. We can sometimes propose flat fees for specific deliverables, but we never do work on a contingency basis.
We fulfil many of the same functions, but our business model is a bit different. We keep our clients by providing value, not by making ourselves indispensable, and certainly not by keeping certain information close to our chest (our clients know everything).
First, what is a good factory for importer A may not be a good factory for other buyers.
Second, we can probably help you, but we will not do this for free. We will activate our network of suppliers, get them to confirm they are interested in your business, and screen them to ensure they are a good fit for your project.